6 years

6 years. That is how long we have had Little Man in our lives. I can honestly say that my life would be less blessed and would lack laughter, adventure, and flare if I had not been gifted this child to parent.

Recently and totally out of the blue he told me, “Good thing you named me Isaac (meaning laughter. I didn’t know he knew that.) because I am hilarious.”

I really could write a book with just his quotes, antics, and jokes. But, then again I really might not be able to capture in words how he makes me laugh so hard my sides hurt. He is funny in a way that catches you off guard. Like today when we were praying for his older brother who is getting a tooth pulled. Ouch. Little Man with all seriousness says, “Well at least he will get money for the pain.” Nudging me in the ribs, he then said, “If the tooth fairy remembers to give him a little something for it.” A knowing look shot my way with a “get it done, mom” thrown in for good measure. Hilarious!

I think back to the days before this funny kid. We were in seminary and didn’t have two pennies to rub together. For sure not the time to jump into an adoption. I had a vivid dream two years earlier that God would give us an Isaac – when I saw his photo on a waiting list the hair on the back of my neck stood on end and I knew I had seen our Isaac for the first time.  Timing was irrelevant.  Our son was waiting.

Today as I hugged him a bit tighter remembering the moment they placed him in our arms for the first time – I wanted to weep over what I could have missed. What if we hadn’t stepped out in faith to bring him home? What if we had said we don’t have the money.  This isn’t the right time.  I would probably eat fewer noodles, there wouldn’t be as many messes around my house, and things for sure would be quieter.

But this boy – this boy who flings his arms wide open as he runs – this boy who laughs with his mouth wide open – this boy who buries his face in the food he loves – he has taught me to love and laugh in ways I never would have learned without him. I am forever thankful. I would have missed so much.

81.5 million Americans have considered adoption. If just 1 in 500 of these adults adopted, every waiting child would have a permanent family. (From the Dave Thomas Foundation)

I could have been part of that statistic. For each of our adoptions – it really never felt like the right time. We never felt prepared enough to have another soul join our family. We always thought we needed more resources or finances. I am not sure what propelled us forward. God’s grace really is the only answer that makes any kind of scene.

In his grace he has gifted us with Little Man. On this anniversary of us becoming mom and son – I want to share how thankful I am that I didn’t miss out.

Family Day

This is the story of a 13 year old boy who joined our crazy crew.

If I am completely honest, the story of this child being added to our family is one that I can only fully tell sitting at my kitchen table over a cup of coffee with extra sugar and cream. Even then, I am sure I would struggle with the words to describe…..the surprise factor. Miraculous provision. Hurdles that God overcame. Agencies willing to work over time on our behalf. Generous friends and family. Anxiety over the unknown – sweet confirmation in the face of the fear and grief. Obstacles. Tears. Victory.

Oh, the stories I have to share.

Friend, until we meet for coffee, these photos and few words will have to do. They will give you a peek at the miraculous adoption that took place.

I have never been so relieved to be in a government office signing papers and pressing our fingers into red ink. We promised to care for and not abandon the teen, who sat next to us taking it in silently with wide eyes. As the translator explained to “B” what we were signing, my hands shook as so many thoughts came to my mind. “Can he understand that we truly mean the promises we are making? How long will it take for him to trust that we are the forever deal?”

I thought that signing the papers felt big to me, but as I watched this brave, strong boy sign his own name as he agreed to enter a new strange life, I cried. I cried because of the hurdles had been crossed to make this possible. God had brought us together. I sniffled because a child should never have to sign this type of paper. My heart screamed at the idea of all that had happened before this day.

A child being without family is an injustice – everything that leads up to it should not be. But there is redemption. When I look at the smile on B’s face in this next photo….when we were holding the book that gives him our last name…it reminds me that there are second chances at love that only come about through grace.

A new beginning with three brothers and two sisters and some crazy white parents – that might just take any strong person down. But this guy entered our family and home with a quiet smile and a determination that puts me to shame.

We spent our first afternoon playing games and getting to know each other on these new terms we have agreed to. I am not sure what I expected, but for sure I didn’t think he would be laughing over Uno and Quick Cups. I never dreamed he would be calling us mom and dad. I never would have pictured him leaning in to tell his new sister a joke with a gleam in his eye.

We celebrated this new chapter in our lives at our favorite Chinese restaurant- Hot Pot. As a party of 8, we now fill a whole table by ourselves. I took it all in wanting to treasure the moment in my heart – all of us together.

As joyful as a new beginning can be, it also means an end. Our brave new son needed to say goodbye to the home he has known for the past nine years. The next day we walked the halls of the orphanage handing out small gifts trying to help B find a bit of closure.

The story I wish you all could hear and understand – it would be a story of the generosity and love that I witnessed as the children and nannies said goodbye. I wish I had a photo of the teen (who will never be adopted because he was not chosen before his 14 birthday) who pressed a few small bills of Chinese currency into the palm of B’s hand stating “Good luck in your new life.” I wish you could see the hat that another teen gave – a teen who B calls “big brother.” I can’t describe the tender moments of his teacher who cried as she hugged his neck. And for sure, I can’t even describe how wrecked my heart was by his nanny. She pulled me aside sobbing – “I will miss him. He has been like a friend. But I can’t tell you how happy I am that he is saved from a lifetime in the institution. Do you know how bad the place is where the 17 year old kids go?” She cried as she shook my hand saying, “Thank you for taking him.”

Over the past month, I have had a heightened awareness of joy and grief and how they go hand in hand. My heart has struggled to comprehend my deep grief as I said goodbye to my mom, but the sweet relief and joy I felt at knowing her struggle was over. I am over 40 and I can hardly handle the depths of those two emotions that stand side by side in my life.

As I look at my new son, I see the joy and the grief that co-exist. I understand it in a way I never did before. How hard it must be at 13 years old to say goodbye to all you have known, even when you understand something as good as a forever family is waiting for you.

Our first days together have been great. He is accepting us, trying all the crazy American food that I serve him, and learning all the rules to the games the kids pull out to teach him – but please do pray for him. Pray that he feels comfort and peace that go beyond his understanding. Pray he is able to experience new joy every morning. Also please pray for us – that God will guide us in knowing how to love and care for him well.

There are no words.

There are no words to describe what it feels like to walk through the corridor of a government office headed to a board room to meet your new child.  It is unnatural.  You can imagine the nerves of new parents about to adopt and the fear of children who are being led through the same multi-floored building unsure of the new life that will await them.

We had done it twice before – but my heart still wasn’t prepared.  Agencies try to prep families.  They tell us that even though we are thrilled to be meeting our new little love, they, on the other hand, will be scared.  It isn’t usually a happy union, but a meeting of sobs, fear, and unknowns.

Why was I so caught off guard this time?

I was expecting a crying two year old.  Instead our little guy marched into that board room like a boss.  He was carrying the little photo book we had sent him.  The nanny who brought him to us pointed to the photos and asked, “Who are these people?”  He told her each of our names in the photos and then pointed to us in the room and said our names again.  He walked over to us and happily started playing with the bouncy balls that I pulled out of a special bag.

That was it.

I am not sure there could be a child who was more ready for a family.  He has embraced us with open arms and has stolen our hearts. He has shed a few tears and asked for his nanny, but he also has snuggled deeply into my arms, is calling me momma, and is sleeping soundly as if he has always been with us.

This child is brave and amazing. He has eaten our food like a champ.  He has sat quiet as a mouse during van rides and through meetings.  He counts every time he climbs stairs (up to 30 in Chinese and 10 in English) and has shocked us by sitting for over 3o minutes playing with play-dough or toy trains.  He is entertaining his siblings with new Chinese songs and hand motions and somehow they have been the ones to get him to smile quickest and laugh the hardest.

I wondered the most about Little Man.  How would he take becoming the big brother?  The first night we had Moe, Little Man curled up into my lap and said, “Thanks for adopting him, Mom.  He is the most adorable thing ever.”  I thought it was pretty darn adorable that he used the word adorable!

We finalized Moe’s adoption after several days in his province.  We are now back at home getting to know each other.  We will need to travel one more time to finish getting his immigration and visa paperwork for the States, but that can be done in a few weeks.

Tonight, as he snuggled in my arms and drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t help but think about how blessed we are.  Three times we have been given precious gifts to parent.  Each time I have watched as Father has chosen children that fit so perfectly in our family.  One of my favorite things to remind people is that #kidsneedfamilies, but I must admit as I look into his precious face – I need each one of them too.  They make me a better person – loving them calls things out in me I did not know were there.  I see Jesus in a way that I never would have if I hadn’t become their mom.  There are no words to describe that either.

Four whole years

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I have been feeling like tomorrow is a big day for us, but I was hesitant to say anything to our girl.  Maybe it is just me.

But my doubts were put to rest as Little Monkey slipped her hand in mine while walking back from the market.  “It’s been four years, right?”  she asked me abruptly.   It took me a beat to catch on to what she was referring to, but then I realized. She had been watching the calendar and processing along with me.  As I nodded she said, “You know for four whole years you have stuck with me.  Now we have been together longer than we have been a part.”

It took my breath away to hear her say those words out loud.

It is a big deal.

 

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Crazy how life can change so much in four years.  Healing has taken place, love has grown, and now it is hard to remember life without our Little Monkey.  Maybe that is why four years seems like a big deal.  We now remember more togetherness than we remember apartness.  There are more memories as a family and pre-family memories (for good or bad) have dimmed.

I will never forget meeting our daughter for the first time.  She was scared to death of us; we were the first white people she had ever seen and she later told us she thought we glowed!  Such a brave almost four year old who was led into her new life that day.  I don’t remember her tears, but I will never forget how she stared straight forward with a determined look on her grim little face.  She looked so much older than her years.

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I thought again today how she seems older than her years.  I promised her brownies to celebrate the day we became a family.  She smiled and said, “Family is the best present of all.”

This marks four years from a birth….the birth of our family as it is now.  That is the gift we are celebrating tomorrow.  Without her, without adoption, we wouldn’t know the depths of love and what family really can be.

 

 

Happily Ever After

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He was one of my first students.  A tiny five year old who we all recognized as having potential – I mean look at those bright eyes!  He was younger than the rest of the class but was allowed to join us because of his natural artistic ability.  As I got to know him, I also was learning as an orphanage volunteer, about the world of adoption, and about kids with special needs – specifically boys.

I wondered why he wasn’t being adopted.  I was told he was un-adoptable.  My heart broke for him.

Two years later the orphanage director decided to give him a chance and began the process of preparing his paperwork.

It will be a sleepless night that I will never forget.  I got the email saying his paperwork would be done at the end of the summer.  I tossed and turned through the night as the grave reality hit me.  A seven year old boy finally given a chance, but how often do you hear of a family able and willing to take a chance on an older special needs boy.

Last night, I tossed and turned again.  It will be a sleepless night that I will always remember.  This time it was not prayer of anguish on behalf of a boy without a family, rather I was awake excitedly saying a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving.  I knew in the morning there would be less one orphan – and not just any orphan – my favorite student now has a family!!  Last night, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep giving thanks for what was coming.

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Can I just type that one more time….just so you understand the depth of my excitement, utter joy and unbelievable relief?!

HE HAS A FAMILY.

He was chosen.  He was adopted.  It is forever.

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Let me introduce you to Luke (his new english name!)  He is an amazing artist who is so very smart.   While living this past year with his foster family,who now is his forever family, he learned English and caught up to his peers at the international school.  Watching him roll and tumble with his brothers and running around at school, you seriously would have thought he has been there forever.  Now forever is possible.

Luke is the poster child of older adoption.

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I know you have heard the horror stories….and older adoption can be difficult, but today I want to tell you a story that has an incredibly happy ending.  This guy dove into family life and never looked back.  His mom exclaimed to me a few months after having him with them, “I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is it supposed to be this easy?”

I stood in a governmental office taking photos of a family as they pressed their thumbs into a well of red ink.  They read the document they were signing out-loud to their boys.  “This means we will never abandon you.  We will treat you like a biological son.  We will give you a good education.”   Luke asked, “What does abandon mean?”  His mom pulled him into a hug and replied, “It means we will never leave you.  You will always be with our family.”

 

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You can not see my tears through the photos I took.  But they are there.  I couldn’t hold them back.  Just one or two slipping from the corner of my eye as I captured the grin of a boy who now has a last name and a family who has been blessed immeasurably by another son.  It will be a moment this art teacher treasures in her heart…right up there with my wedding day, the births and adoption days of my own four children.

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I think I might just carry this photo around in my art bag from now on as a reminder that there is hope.

When I returned to China to teach at the orphanage, I fell in love again – with a different seven year old boy named Renny.  I thought of him this morning as I took pictures of Luke.

There is hope.

Maybe you are a part of the hope that needs to be extended to Renny.   He is cute as a button, loves learning and has mild CP.  In China he isn’t allowed to go to public school because of his disability.  He needs a family so that he can have hope and a future.  His adoption paperwork is completed and waits to be chosen.  You can contact Annie Hamlin with Lifeline Children’s Services and ask to view Renny’s file to consider adopting him. Click here to email her.

Maybe Renny isn’t a match for your family, but God is calling you to be hope for one of the other 1393 boys who are right now on the waiting list to be adopted from China.  That isn’t counting the girls who wait…..in total there are about 1831 children currently waiting on the shared list which means anyone can adopt them.  (Did you catch that?! 1393 boys and 438 girls.  That is a sad statistic for a different blog post!)  There are even more children who wait in orphanages without paperwork and even more who are assigned to specific agencies.  It is staggering….but not hopeless.

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Happy family day to the Tompkins family!  Thank you for being willing to step out in faith and for giving this art teacher hope!  Look at the grin on that boy’s face.  Nothing else needs to be said!